July 31, 2008 / 6:59 PM / 10 years ago

Imperial Oil profit soars to record high

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Imperial Oil Ltd’s (IMO.TO) profit surged 61 percent to a company record in the second quarter as sky-high oil and gas prices more than made up for lower output, Canada’s No. 2 oil producer and refiner said on Thursday.

Imperial, known for its extensive oil sands holdings and national chain of Esso gas stations, also boosted its dividend by 11 percent to 10 Canadian cents a share.

The big jump in earnings was all on the back of its oil and gas production division, as weaker margins and the strong Canadian dollar hit refining and marketing.

Imperial, which is majority-owned by U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), earned C$1.15 billion ($1.13 billion), or C$1.28 a share, up from year-earlier C$712 million, or 76 Canadian cents a share.

Excluding a gain of C$187 million on the sale of its stake in the Rainbow oil pipeline system in Alberta, the company earned C$961 million, or C$1.08 a share.

It had been expected to report a profit before one-time items of C$1.30 a share, the average of analysts’ forecasts compiled by Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 40 percent to C$8.86 billion.

Imperial shares ended down C$1.13, or 2 percent, at C$50.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They are down about 8 percent so far this year.

Imperial and its industry peers benefited from oil prices that averaged a record $123.80 per barrel over the quarter, 90 percent higher than the year-prior quarter.

Record crude prices also pushed Exxon Mobil’s quarterly profit to a U.S. corporate quarterly record of $11.68 billion, it said on Thursday.

Imperial sold its own crude for an average C$118.88 a barrel, up 76 percent from a year earlier. Its natural gas fetched C$10.35 per thousands cubic feet, up 36 percent.

Profit at its oil and gas production division more than doubled to C$938 million from C$460 million a year earlier, while its refining and sales arm posted a C$239 million profit, down 24 percent.

The company produced a net average of 198,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day, a 6 percent decrease. Natural gas output fell 42 percent to 251 million cubic feet a day as a big field ran dry. That was down from 434 mmcf a day in the year-prior period.

Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) owns 69.6 percent of Imperial.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Frank McGurty

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